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24th Feb 2024

EU 'optimistic' on climate deal, long night ahead

  • Climate negotiators in public sessions don't say the same things in behind-closed-doors talks (Photo: UNclimatechange)

The European Union's climate chief, Miguel Arias Canete, is optimistic that the world's governments can reach an “ambitious” climate deal in Paris, he told journalists at a press conference on Thursday afternoon (10 December), but he said the agreement should ask commitments from all countries.

“We cannot repeat the experience of Kyoto,” the European commissioner said in Paris, referring to the 1997 climate conference in Japan, where only 38 countries signed up to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which cause global warming.

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  • Canete (with beard) talks to Dutch environment minister Sharon Dijksma (Photo: European Commission)

Canete said this time around, 185 countries already submitted pledges to reduce emissions in the past year.

“In Kyoto, we only covered 12 percent of global emissions. Today … we are covering more than 96 percent of global emissions. This is an astounding story of success.”

He added: “The most important thing is that the agreement is inclusive. We need all emitters of the world together in this agreement. We cannot lose China, which is responsible for 23 [percent of emissions]. We cannot lose United States, which is responsible for 12 percent.”

However, he also noted several sticking points remain.

Referring to a draft version of the treaty, released by the French presidency of the summit on Wednesday, Canete said “more progress is needed.”

“[The text] did not reflect either the progress made in the ministerial consultations this week, or the political momentum we’re seeing.”

At another press conference, which started at noon on Thursday, the head of the EU delegation echoed Canete, her boss.

“The outlook is good,” said Elina Bardram.

“There is a lot of hard work, long hours to go, but I remain very confident that the political determination will also be projected in the negotiating rooms and that it will end with a very solid and ground-breaking agreement as we leave Paris,” she said.

Friday, maybe Saturday

Bardram shared the podium with Gao Feng, China's special representative for climate change. He said “success” is possible, but he indicated that the conference may be extended beyond Friday, the last officially scheduled day.

“I remain optimistic. Let's see on Friday, or maybe Saturday, we will get there. I think we will get it,” said Gao.

“We’re still at the most difficult part of the negotiations. We have still 48 hours, maybe a little bit longer. So it’s not a surprise that we’re still facing all those difficult issues.”

Canete said three elements are “essential” for a “robust” agreement: a long-term goal; a review cycle, which allows for ambition to be scaled up over time; and “transparency and accountability.”

He’s also being urged to pursue other issues.

Shipping and aviation

Sitting next to him at the press conference, Italian MEP Giovanni La Via said the aviation and shipping sectors should be specifically mentioned.

“I want to insist on the necessary inclusion of international aviation and shipping in the Paris deal. So far, no effort is requested from them,” noted La Via, a member of the EU Parliament's largest group, the centre-right EPP.

“Those two sectors could represent up to 40 percent of all global emissions by 2050 if they are left unregulated, according to a study published by the European Parliament service. I ask Miguel [Canete] to push for it. We, as members of the parliament, strongly request to reconsider the text.”

Canete said aviation and shipping “cannot be off the radar,” but cited a different estimate.

“Their emissions are growing significantly, and account for as much, will account for as much, as one third of all global emissions in 2050 if nothing is done,” he said.

Negotiating tactics

The EU Commissioner could not guarantee the two sectors will be in the final deal, amid speculation the EU may trade them in exchange for concessions in other areas.

He also wouldn’t say the EU would walk away from an agreement if it doesn’t get the five-year review cycle.

“The speeches in the public plenary are one, but when you go to the negotiating table are others. Because the rooms have different moods, you know. In the negotiating tables we are finding compromises,” he noted.

“We worked through the night to make substantial improvements to the text. We hope the new version we will receive later today will address the gaps that we’ve identified.”

That new version is due Thursday afternoon, but had not been published by 6.51pm.

“We have another long day and night ahead of us,” Canete said earlier on Thursday.

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